Cannabis in Denmark
Cannabis sale and use, while illegal, has been unofficially tolerated in the Copenhagen neighborhood of Freetown Christiania. The neighborhood was unsure about the cannabis trade after a 2016 shooting, but decided to ultimately keep it. However, lately, a Danish company is going to be the first Cannabis company to be an IPO.
The punishment for small amounts (up to 9.9 g or 0.35 oz) for personal use is typically a fine. In certain cases such as socially vulnerable people, a warning can be given instead of a fine. Larger quantities (more than 100 g or 3.5 oz) generally results in a prison sentence. Driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and all but the smallest amounts of THC in a blood sample results in a fine and loss of the driver’s license (conditional or unconditional).
Despite its illegal status, a report by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (2015) shows that slightly more than 1⁄3 of adult Danes have tried cannabis at some point in their life, which is above the European average where only France is positioned higher. Based on the same study, less than 7% have used cannabis in the last year, which also is above European average, but almost the same as Finland and the United Kingdom, and below the Czech Republic, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.
Danish political parties are split on the legality of cannabis for recreational use: Red-Green Alliance, Socialist People’s Party, Liberal Alliance and The Alternative support legalization, while the Social Democrats, Danish People’s Party, Conservatives and Venstre are opposed. The Danish Social Liberal Party has traditionally been opposed, but in 2016 the party leader announced that they supported a legalization on a trial basis. The goal of the Cannabis Party is legalization, but the party is marginal, without representation in the Danish Parliament, regional councils, or municipal councils. In contrast to the opposition by the parent parties, both the Social Democrats of Copenhagen (Denmark’s capital and a major stronghold of the party) and the youth wing of Venstre support legalization.
The municipal council of Copenhagen has expressed an interest in starting a three-year trial where all adult citizens legally can buy cannabis from certified sellers. The necessary permit has repeatedly been denied by the Government, as this would require a change of the law, which is not supported by a majority in the Danish Parliament.
A poll from 2016 showed that Danes were divided exactly on the middle, with 43% supporting legalization and 43% against (11% “neither”; 3% “don’t know”).
Three types of cannabis derivatives for medical use (Sativex, Marinol and Nabilone) were approved by the Danish Medicines Agency in 2011, but require prescription. These are primarily prescribed as a relief of pain and nausea in cancer patients, or to alleviate muscle stiffness in multiple sclerosis patients. Cannabis in other forms such as hashish and the raw plant are illegal, but from 2018 this and other variants will be prescribed on a trial basis to some patients with cancer, multiple sclerosis, spinal injury and chronic pain. Initially it was planned that the cannabis would be imported from other countries (notably the Netherlands) as it was illegal to grow in Denmark, but in 2017 it was decided that Danish farmers would be allowed to grow the plant under secured condition with a special permit. A poll shows that 88% of Danes support cannabis for medicinal use.. In Denmark, an NGO named Cannabis Danmark has been founded to support cultivation and research in medical cannabis.
Prior to prohibition of cannabis, the plant was used in some typical remedies in Denmark; it was not until 1964 that a Danish factory was ordered to stop making a clavus (corn) liniment from cannabis extract.
Since its opening, Freetown Christiania has been famous for its open cannabis trade, taking place in the centrally located Pusher Street, although named Green Light District by the Christianian council. Although the hash trade is illegal, authorities were for many years reluctant to forcibly stop it. Proponents thought that concentrating the hash trade at one place would limit its dispersion in society, and that it could prevent users from switching to ‘harder drugs’. Some wanted to legalize hash altogether. Opponents thought the ban should be enforced, in Christiania as elsewhere, and that there should be no differentiation between ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ drugs. It has also been claimed that the open cannabis trade was one of Copenhagen’s major tourist attractions, while some said it scared other potential tourists away. Even though the police have attempted to stop the drug trade, the cannabis market has generally thrived in Christiania. Following a 2016 shooting, local residents removed the Pusher Street stalls, and it was estimated that the cannabis sale dropped by about 75%. As of 2017 cannabis is still openly sold in Freetown.
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